By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – January, 2014
Last year was a very productive year for our Legislature and 2014 will bring forth necessary and spirited debate on some key issues to include ballot initiatives.
In 2013, the focus of the Legislature was upon the economy, transportation, welfare reform, regulating compounding pharmacies, election laws, and increasing local aid. Here are some highlights:
The Economy. The budget passed by the Legislature:
Increased funding for local communities (including public schools), prevented scheduled tuition hikes at UMASS, and provided increased support to community colleges;
Funded a hefty reserve thereby maintaining the highest bond rating in the history of the Commonwealth;
Funded the Manufacturing Futures Program, and the Mass Works Infrastructure Program – to foster job creation for those of all skill levels.
The House rejected the Governor’s call to finance transportation expansion with a modest reduction in the sales tax and a large increase in the income tax rate that would have given Massachusetts the top income tax rate in the country;
While I understand that investment in new public transportation infrastructure fuels growth, we have not been adequately maintaining our existing infrastructure. Road and bridge maintenance is a safety priority long neglected that must take precedence over new projects at this time;
The Legislature increased funding for local road repair.
Compounding Pharmacies: In response to the meningitis outbreak of 2012 linked to contaminated drugs, Massachusetts became the first state to pass comprehensive regulations governing specialty pharmacies.
Welfare Reform: Following EBT reforms in the last budget, a House Bill in 2013 expanded the scope of prohibited transactions including foreign transmittal and increased funding for both electronic management and monitoring of welfare programs.
Housing and Heating: In response to the continued high levels of homelessness resulting from the recession, the House continues to fund policies that move the homeless from motel housing to less costly and better quality temporary shelter. The House also passed a bond bill for repairs in public housing across the state.
Veterans. The House passed two bills:
One provides increased property tax relief, enhanced employment opportunities, and improved access to educational and health care support services for our Veterans;
The second bill passed was a military bond bill that funds projects at our military installations across the state. Military installations and research are critical to our Massachusetts economy.
As I Look to 2014…
I anticipate healthy debate on two emerging ballot initiatives: the first pertaining to the gas tax; the second pertaining to casinos;
I will continue to advocate strongly for increased funding for the Gateway Cites program which greatly assists the communities of the Merrimack Valley.
We need more resources to treat substance abuse, especially closer to home, because it is the root cause of most of the violent and non-violent crime in our area. This, along with increased funding for public safety, is very important to ensure our quality of life here in the Merrimack Valley.
Continued emphasis on local road improvement will remain a focus, along with continued support for many local school projects.
Also most important in my opinion is a continued priority in the reduction of people unemployed and policies, such as unemployment insurance reform, that help our small business continue to recover from the aftereffects of the recession as they struggle to adapt to changes in health care laws.